Each episode features two artists coming together to discuss their work and creative practice.
For this episode, we asked choreographer Miguel Gutierrez which artist he’d most like to speak with, and, without hesitation, he selected performance artist and writer Gabrielle Civil. Over the phone, Miguel and Gabrielle discuss their paths to artistic success, the pressures of first-generation exceptionalism, and the time Miguel memorized the choreography to The Nutcracker as a ten-year-old.
Gabrielle Civil is a Black feminist performance artist, poet, and writer, from Detroit. She has premiered fifty original performance artworks around the world and is the author of two books, Swallow the Fish and Experiments in Joy. Her recent performances include Jupiter and Wild Beauty.
Miguel Gutierrez is a choreographer, musician, singer, and writer. His recent projects include the performance This Bridge Called My Ass, his Madonna cover band SADONNA; and Are You For Sale?, a podcast about the ethical entanglements in dance-making and philanthropy.
For this episode, we asked visual artist Tschabalala Self who she’d most like to speak with—she selected her friend Abdu Ali, the musician and multidisciplinary artist. The pair discuss the fantasy of permanent institutional spaces, unapologetic art, and the fraught desire for canonical recognition.
Tschabalala Self is a Harlem-born visual artist. Her work concerns the emotional, physical and psychological impact of the Black female body as icon. Her solo exhibitions include: By My Self, at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, and Cotton Mouth, on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Self’s work is included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Hammer Museum, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.
Abdu Ali is a musician, writer, cultural worker, and artist. Blending punk, jazz, Baltimore club music, and rap. Their works explore ideas of race, gender, sexuality, and liberation. They received a 2018 Ruby Artist Grant and a 2019 Best Artist Award by the LGBTQ Commission of Baltimore City.
We asked musician and songwriter David Byrne which artist he would most wish to speak with and he chose hip-hop artist and comedian Open Mike Eagle. In this episode, David reveals how he wrote the iconic Talking Heads song “Burning Down the House,” and the pair also discuss gatekeeping in the music industry, anime as inspiration, and what punchlines can teach you about songwriting.
David Byrne is a musician, composer, and producer, and the cofounder of the band Talking Heads. His recent acclaimed rock spectacle, American Utopia, toured the world and was adapted into a Broadway play as well as a concert film directed by Spike Lee. Byrne has received Academy, Grammy, and Golden Globe Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Open Mike Eagle has over a dozen solo and collaborative projects to his name. He is the founder of Auto Reverse Records and co-founder of The New Negroes, a standup-meets-music variety show that explores perceptions of Blackness. Eagle’s most recent album, Anime, Trauma, and Divorce, was released last year.
We asked Eiko Otake, the movement-based interdisciplinary artist, who she’d most like to speak with and she named her former collaborator and artistic director, David Harrington, founder and violinist of Kronos Quartet. In the course of their conversation, Eiko explores her reluctance to use music with her choreography, David divulges the most disturbing piece of music he’s ever heard, and they ponder art’s resonance in the body by asking, “Where does a sound go once you've finished making that sound?"
David Harrington is the artistic director, founder and violinist of the Kronos Quartet. For over 45 years, San Francisco’s Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet and its nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association have reimagined and redefined the string quartet experience through thousands of concerts, over 60 recordings, collaborations with composers and performers from around the globe, more than 1,000 commissioned works, and education programs for emerging musicians.
Eiko Otake is a movement-based, interdisciplinary artist. Born and raised in Japan and a resident of New York since 1976, Eiko Otake worked for more than 40 years as Eiko & Koma but since 2014 has been performing her solo project, A Body in Places. In 2017, she launched a multi-year Duet Project, a series of cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural and cross-generational experiments with a diverse range of artists both living and dead.
For this episode, we asked musician Okay Kaya which artist she would most like to speak with, and she selected filmmaker John Wilson, creator of HBO’s How To with John Wilson. Listen in on their conversation to discover the genesis of John's voyeuristic style, and how a late night karaoke fail led Kaya to write a song “you can dance to.” With humor and vulnerability, the pair discuss finding inspiration in everyday moments, the transformation of shame into art, and, of course, how to approach strangers with a camera.
Kaya Wilkins is a Norwegian American Berlin-based musician, composer, and artist who records and performs as Okay Kaya. Okay Kaya has released numerous acclaimed albums including Both (2018), and most recently Watch This Liquid Pour Itself (2020) followed by her companion album Surviving Is the New Living (2020).
John Wilson is an NYC-based documentarian who has been making low budget documentaries for over a decade. His films eventually caught the eye of Nathan Fielder, who ended up convincing HBO to give John his own TV show. How To with John Wilson is the result of this collaboration.
For this episode, Olivia Laing, author of Everybody: A Book About Freedom and Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, selected her old friend and documentarian Matt Wolf (Spaceship Earth) as the artist she most wanted to speak with. They discuss their abhorrence of the word “storytelling,” mining cultural history for inspiration, and the queerness of living unconventionally—in Olivia’s case, living in a tree.
Olivia Laing is the author of To the River, The Trip to Echo Spring, The Lonely City, and Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. She was awarded a Windham-Campbell Prize for non-fiction in 2018. Her latest book, Everybody: A Book About Freedom, is an investigation into the body and its discontents.
Matt Wolf is a filmmaker whose critically acclaimed and award-winning documentaries include Wild Combination, Teenage and Recorder. His newest film, Spaceship Earth, premiered at Sundance and is now streaming on Hulu. Wolf has also made many short films about artists and queer history, including The Face of AIDS and HBO’s It’s Me, Hilary. Wolf is a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Simone Leigh selected longtime collaborator and friend Madeleine Hunt Ehrlich to talk about experimenting with new media, the importance of failure in one’s career, and what it means to be a “race woman.”
Simone Leigh is an artist working with sculpture, installation, video, and social practice. In 2018, Leigh was awarded the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss Prize. Her sixteen-foot-tall sculpture, Brick House, is currently installed on New York City’s High Line. A solo exhibition of new sculptures is on view at David Kordansky gallery through June 11, 2020.
Madeleine Hunt Ehrlich is an artist, filmmaker, and assistant professor in film and television production at Queens College, City University of New York. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Rema Hort Mann Award and a UnionDocs fellowship.
We asked Nick Hornby, author of the memoir Fever Pitch and the novels High Fidelity and About a Boy, who he’d most like to speak with. Without hesitation, he named Grammy-winning composer and jazz orchestra leader Maria Schneider. The pair discuss writing “big stuff,” small towns, childhood fantasies, flailing, building an archive, hang gliding, and finding one’s voice.
Nick Hornby is a novelist, screenwriter, lyricist, and producer. His novel High Fidelity was recently adapted into a show that premiered in February (2020) on Hulu, starring Zoe Kravitz and Jake Lacy. Nick is also a longstanding contributor to The Believer’s monthly column, “Stuff I’ve Been Reading.”
Since 2005, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra has performed at festivals and concert halls with over eighty groups in more than thirty countries. Schneider collaborated with David Bowie on his single “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)” and received a 2016 GRAMMY. Schneider and her orchestra received an additional GRAMMY that year for their project The Thompson Fields. Schneider’s latest project, Data Lords, is set to be available for purchase this year.
Featured music in this episode: "Hang Gliding" by Maria Schneider.
Mira Jacob selected fellow novelist Scott Cheshire to discuss process, epiphany, and race in the era of Trump. Jacob considers how to write unflinchingly about the realities of contemporary American life—with horror and humor—as well as the hard choice between vengeance and clarity.
Mira Jacob is the author of the novel The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing and the graphic memoir Good Talk, which is being adapted into a television series. She is currently a visiting professor in the Creative Writing MFA at the New School.
Scott Cheshire is the author of the novel High As the Horses' Bridles, a Best Book of 2014 pick at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and Electric Literature.
For this episode, we asked artist Ja'Tovia Gary who she would most like to speak with, and she selected author Kaitlyn Greenidge. In an expansive examination of academia and the archive, Gary and Greenidge underscore the importance of expanding access and redistributing power. They talk about how a historically based practice shapes representations of Black womanhood in their respective works.
Ja’Tovia Gary is a Brooklyn-based artist and filmmaker. Her films include An Ecstatic Experience, Giverny I, The Giverny Suite, The Giverny Document, and most recently The Evidence of Things Not Seen (forthcoming). Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art and other renowned cultural institutions.
Kaitlyn Greenidge is the author of the novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Believer, Virginia Quarterly Review, and American Short Fiction. Greenidge and her two sisters recently started a podcast called Sharpening Our Oyster Knives which examines history through a Black feminist lens.
Becca Blackwell selected fellow New York-based performer Okwui Okpokwasili to discuss building relationships with their audiences, challenging gender norms, fighting fear with art-making, and the power of body language in their work.
Becca Blackwell is a New York-based trans actor, performer, and writer. Their play, They, Themself and Schmerm, has been presented across the country and most recently, Schmermies Choice. They have collaborated with Young Jean Lee, Noah Baumbach, Tina Satter, and Richard Maxwell, and was featured in season four of HBO's High Maintenance. Blackwell was the recipient of a 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award.
Okwui Okpokwasili is a performer, choreographer, writer, and genre-breaking figure in New York City’s experimental dance scene. Her productions include Bronx Gothic (2014) and Poor People’s TV Room (2017). Her latest project, “Sitting on a Man’s Head”, was choreographed in collaboration with Peter Born at Danspace Project and co-curated with Danspace Executive Director and Chief Curator, Judy Hussie-Taylor for PLATFORM 2020: Utterances from the Chorus. Okpokwasili received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018.
In this episode, we did something a little different: revisiting a BOMB interview from 1993 between Deborah Eisenberg and Francine Prose.
The two writers address the state of fiction twenty years later, the importance of forgoing “safe” characters, the word “process,” and the 2015 PEN/Charlie Hebdo scandal.
Deborah Eisenberg has published five collections of stories: Transactions in a Foreign Currency, Under the 82nd Airborne, All Around Atlantis, Twilight of the Superheroes, and Your Duck Is My Duck.
Francine Prose is the author of twenty-one works of fiction, including Mister Monkey, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, A Changed Man, and Blue Angel, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times–bestseller Reading Like a Writer. Prose is a Visiting Professor of Literature at Bard College.